Coffeehouse celebrates art and music
The warm glow from garlands of glass globe lights and the scent of hot chocolate welcomed attendees to the first-ever Nueva Coffeehouse in the WRC on Friday, Nov. 30. An intimate audience of 30–40 students and faculty members settled into couches and armchairs to watch creative performances from members of the upper school community.
Sophomores Jordan Mak and Willow Taylor Chiang Yang, both editors on The Nueva Current staff, worked hard to organize the event for about a month.
“We saw a similar event at another high school, and it looked like a lot of fun,” Mak said. “We wanted to make space for people to share their creative talents with the community, especially in music and the arts.”
They began planning the event in October. While Yang tackled budgets and logistics for the coffeehouse, Mak handled marketing: designing posters and making personalized invitations to students and faculty. They also met with Bonnie Fought, an alumni parent and co-chair of the Nueva Arts Task Force, during the initial brainstorming stage, to discuss how they could successfully showcase the arts.
“We had a lot of really great ideas, so the process was really based on what we could feasibly accomplish in a short time frame,” Yang explained. “Fought was really wonderful in telling us about her past experiences, and giving us advice on how to move forward.”
From the start, Mak and Yang envisioned creating a cozy, warm space for performers and the audience.
I really didn’t want to give up.
The day before the event, they walked through the WRC with Facilities & Operations Manager Drew Kellner, who convinced them that the open space in front of the two-story windows was ideal.
Kellner and the facilities team installed a stage platform in front of the windows. Lights were strung between two speakers and around the base of the stage, while groupings of couches, armchairs, and coffee tables were arranged in the space.
Unfortunately, there were last-minute mishaps. An hour before the first performer was to take the stage, a fuse blew in a strand of fairy lights. Mak ran around campus, checking with the I-Lab to see if they had replacement fuses—they didn’t.
“I really didn’t want to give up,” Mak admitted. “The lights just really helped set the ambience we wanted to achieve for the coffeehouse.”
Jason Hwong (11), a guitarist in Groove Workshop and organizer for the Arts Culmination in a few weeks, signed up for the event as a performer and to support the other artists and musicians.
“I’ve wanted to see improved performance spaces at Nueva for a while, and this was a perfect example of that,” Hwong said. He shared that his favorite part was how the event struck a balance between feeling like a special performance and an open space for anyone to share what they wanted to. “The supportiveness of the community and people who attended was really inspiring. Also, it was really inspiring to see people put themselves out there and give really amazing performances, especially those that I hadn’t seen or known about before.”
Hwong complimented the organizers for creating this space and expressed interest in possibly modeling the upcoming musical performances during the Arts Culmination in this style, borrowing from the setup of the venue.
I wanted to perform in a way that honored the students that I usually get to work with as their teacher. It was fun to be a collaborator for the time we were on stage!
“It’s a lovely—dare I say community-building—experience to share in and be witness to something creative together,” said Rachel Dragos, a faculty member who read a poem she wrote called “The Department Store Badger,” which was published in the Bellevue Literary Review. “There’s nothing better than having the encouragement and support of others!”
For some students, this stage was the first they had performed upon; Choi had taught herself how to create a composition using chords just recently.
“Music has always been something I’ve enjoyed,” Choi said. “Being able to perform a song I’ve worked so hard on…in front of a supportive audience was an amazing experience.”
“I was looking forward to the event since they first announced it a month ago,” said senior Nehmat Vijan. “It was so fun!”
Even as the coffeehouse was unfolding, people were asking, “Will there be another coffeehouse?”
“Yes! We’re definitely hoping so. Right now, we’re thinking one at the end of the second semester,” Yang said. “I think that an event like this is great in that it allows for the varied creative freedom from all sorts of people at Nueva to be expressed in an environment that’s supportive and cozy and exciting.”
Written by Elizabeth B-P and Jordan M.